FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 12, 2003
Contact: Eric Burmeister
DETROIT, MICHIGAN -- The MAZDASPEED Rally Team USA set out for the hills and rocky roads of Olympia, Washington this weekend for the 7th Round of the SCCA ProRally Group 2 Championship, the Wild West ProRally. The Mazda Protege team of Eric Burmeister and Cindy Krolikowski is in first place for the Group 2 Drivers Championship, leading the Mopar Dodge team of Chris Whiteman and Mike Paulin by a precious few points.
In addition to Mazda and Dodge, Arizona's Brian Scott would be back in his Ford Focus with Washington co-driver, Claire Chizma, and Northwest natives Scott Fuller/Jeff Call would surely run well in their F2 Volkswagen.
The rally started out with baseball sized rocks getting thrown from the knobby tires as the cars wound their way through the Washington forests. Stage 2 claimed Brian Scott/Claire Chizma in a violent incident, but both competitors were alright. Fuller/Call took off to an early lead, but the prize fight was between Burmeister/Krolikowski's Mazda and Whiteman/Paulin's Dodge.
Burmeister: "We boiled the brake fluid on Stage 6 and had to pump the brakes to use them for the last two miles and part of Stage 7, but we still managed to be up on Chris by 35 seconds going into Stage 10."
Stage 10, however, is where it all went wrong. About a mile from the start of the seven-mile stage, Burmeister felt the front right tire give way. The valve stem apparently was ripped from the rim from the continuous beating of the rocks. They managed to only lose a minute over the remaining six miles, driving on the flat tire, then the rim, but the damage was done.
"We went into Stage 11 knowing we were down 24 seconds with 4 stages to go...6 seconds a stage," explained Burmeister. "We beat him by 4 on the first one, 5 on the second and 3 on the third. We were taking time off him, but it was going to be tight!"
The team put the best tires they had left on (they destroyed 12 new tires over the two days of racing) and went out to do battle on the last stage, a twelve-mile narrow, twisty road with variable surfaces.
"We cut up our tires to sharpen up the edges and throw the "golf balls" we had been seeing on the previous stages," said Burmeister. "But we got to that last stage and my heart sank. It was hard, sharp abrasive stuff that would just eat our tires for lunch. We gave it a go and the tires just melted about halfway through."
The pair gave up 6 seconds on that last twelve-mile stage to the Dodge team, taking third behind Fuller/Call and Whiteman/Paulin. The flat tire also allowed Doug Shephard to get past Burmeister in the turbocharged Dodge, another contender for the Woodner Cup for all two-wheel-drive drivers.
This sets up the battle for the last race of the season in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the Lake Superior ProRally on October 17-18. Both Burmeister/Krolikowski and Whiteman/Paulin consider this their home race. The Championship points spread is 106(Burmeister)-to-103 (Whiteman). Houghton, Michigan, the town that plays host to the rally, also played host to two young college students in 1989 who were roomates at Michigan Technological University. Those two young students, Burmeister and Whiteman, are now rally drivers who will face each other for a National Championship.
In the Woodner Cup, just one point separates all three for top honors, Burmeister, Shephard, and Whiteman.
The SCCA ProRally series is a "stage" or "performance" rally series that stretches across the nation. Sanctioned by the Sports Car Club of America and televised on SPEED CHANNEL, this form of motorsport is one of the fastest growing racing series in the United States. Competitors race flat out against the clock for hundreds of miles on a course of back roads closed to public usage. A co-driver or navigator describes the road in tremendous detail to the driver via an intercom system in the helmets.
For information on the SCCA ProRally series, check: www.scca.com